The Human Emperor Chapter 814
Chapter 814: Storm
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Bullshit," Yang Chao loudly declared. "Lord Zhang and Lord Zhao of the Bureau of Military Personnel, Lord Xie and Lord Li of the Bureau of Revenue, Lord Chen and Lord Shen of the Bureau of Personnel, and there was even Lord Lu and Lord Huang… all of them were there, celebrating the Xiayuan Festival with the Fourth Prince. There were even honorable Protector-Generals of the borders. They all support the Fourth Prince in his claim to the throne. I was at that party just now; I saw it for myself…"
The moment Yang Chao finished speaking, the entire restaurant fell silent, all noise vanishing without a trace. It was like one had been transported from a bustling and crowded marketplace to a remote desert. Countless gazes were aimed at Yang Chao, all of them suffused with shock.
Meanwhile, the words had barely left Yang Chao's mouth when he realized that he had been too loose with his lips. As astonished eyes bore down on him, Yang Chao felt his heart drop to frigid temperatures. And it was only now that Yang Chao recognized where he was.
He was in the capital's famed Blue Sky Pavilion, and almost half of the officials of the court had been gathered in the restaurant, with members of the Bureau of Military Personnel, Bureau of Personnel, Bureau of Punishments, Bureau of Revenue, and Bureau of Works all present. Even Imperial Censor He Zhang was here, staring at him with a dour expression.
Yang Chao felt like he was drowning, his complexion ashen.
Like a boulder crashing into a lake, the incident in Blue Sky Pavilion sent a tempest raging through the capital. On the morning of the next day, Imperial Censor He Zhang submitted a memorial to the Imperial Court impeaching Yang Chao, and the words spoken in that restaurant made the entire court quake.
A prince of the Great Tang had been privately courting important officials of the court and colluding with border generals, a massive taboo in any era.
Before the morning court session had even concluded, Yang Chao had been seized and imprisoned. But this was only the beginning, as the incident at Blue Sky Pavilion would soon bring even greater storms.
Almost half the court had heard Yang Chao's words, a fatal blow that affirmed Yang Chao's crimes.
"The Fourth Prince, using the excuse of honoring ancestors and celebrating the Three Great Gods for the Xiayuan Festival, invited all the members of his faction within the court for a banquet. These people were distributed across all departments of the Six Bureaus, and in recruiting men to his side, the Fourth Prince even courted the Great Generals of the border. Anxi Protector-General Gao Xianzhi, Qixi Protector-General Fumeng Lingcha, Beiting Protector-General An Sishun, Big Dipper Great General Geshu Han… the Fourth Prince wrote a letter to almost all the Hu Protector-Generals and Great Generals, inviting them to support his ascension to the throne." (TN: Previously, the author had it so that An Sishun was Vice Protector-General of Beiting, with the explanation that the position of Beiting Protector-General was left vacant because the imperial household controlled it. The author has apparently changed this, so An Sishun will henceforth be referred to as Beiting Protector-General.)
The information that Yang Chao had confessed in the imperial prison spread through the entire court on the same night, unleashing an unprecedented storm.
For the Fourth Prince to invite those court officials who supported him for a banquet was not anything strange. Although it did not comply with the conventions of the court and the Sage Emperor had never permitted such a thing, the War of the Princes had always been a test of mettle to see which of the princes was skilled enough to become Emperor.
Hadn't the Sage Emperor also privately courted his own faction when he was a prince?
The crucial point was those other names on Yang Chao's signed confession: Anxi Protector-General Gao Xianzhi, Qixi Protector-General Fumeng Lingcha, Beiting Protector-General An Sishun, and Big Dipper Great General Geshu Han. Each of these names represented an ascendant individual of the Great Tang, a Great General who wielded vast authority over many soldiers.
The presence of any of these names on a list would result in a major incident, much less four of them.
Thunder pealed in the sky. Even the Sage Emperor had been greatly alarmed and enraged by this incident.
The day after Yang Chao was arrested, Zhang Xian and Zhao You of the Bureau of Military Personnel, Xie Po and Li Chang of the Bureau of Revenue, Chen Tuan and Shen Xin of the Bureau of Personnel… all the officials who had attended the Fourth Prince's Xiayuan Festival banquet were arrested. The Imperial Army had carried out this operation, with the Eunuch Overseer presiding.
And everyone knew that this storm was far from over.
"Damn it! This Yang Chao can't do anything right! If I knew things would turn out like this, I would have never invited him. I was too careless! This bastard drinks far too much, resulting in today's disaster. Not even death would be enough for him!"
In Xueyang Palace, a middle-aged scholar at the Fourth Prince's side was apoplectic. If looks could kill, Yang Chao would have been killed countless times by now.
"Enough!" the Fourth Prince bellowed, halting the scholar's rant. He appeared much calmer and more composed than this aide of his. Only his gloomy eyes and ashen complexion revealed his true emotional state. More and more details about Yang Chao's tirade were emerging, and even though he had been arguing on the Fourth Prince's behalf, this meant nothing to him.
"Has everything been taken care of?"
The middle-aged scholar lowered his head and said, "Replying to Your Highness: on the night Yang Chao was arrested, we took care of everything. All evidence that could harm Your Highness has been destroyed. Even for that crucial letter from Fumeng Lingcha, after Your Highness tore it to pieces, we gathered up the remains and burned them to ashes so that the Imperial Clan Court wouldn't be able to piece it back together."
The Fourth Prince nodded, his expression improving.
"As long as there's no firm evidence, those officials in court will just be chasing after shadows. No matter how much the imperial censors criticize me, Imperial Father won't be able to pin any crime on me. But if they find any solid evidence, none of us will have any chance."
The Fourth Prince turned grim and dejected, for a moment revealing the worries that plagued his mind.
Disasters were sent down by the heavens, and he had never expected the incident at Blue Sky Pavilion. However, as a prince, he could not leave, could not flee, couldn't even leave the palace. Not only that, the only appearance he was allowed to show was one of calm composure, and the more dangerous the situation, the less panicked he had to be.
"Your Highness, be at ease. Nothing will happen."
The scholar attempted to comfort the prince, though his expression was still rather gloomy. They had just obtained the support of a Protector-General and many important officials of the court. Their ambitions were high and they had been at the top of the world, ready to put grand plans into motion. Who could have expected that the situation would suddenly change, dropping straight into the abyss?
The Fourth Prince took in a deep breath as he calmed himself down. He had never been much of a one for repentance. Even now, he had not given up.
"Imperial Father has already restricted my movements, but Yang Chao is of minor status, and his words alone don't have much persuasive power, so Imperial Father can't use them to actually imprison me. But once Zhang Xian, Zhao You, and the others start to be interrogated, everything will change. Imperial Father will probably have me jailed in the imperial prison. Write a letter to Fumeng Lingcha for me telling him that we've already taken care of that letter. When the time comes, no matter what happens in the Imperial Court, all he has to do is feign ignorance and completely deny any relationship to remain unscathed. In addition, tell him to wait for this storm to pass and for me to be released. Our agreement is still in effect, and I hope that he remains true to our oath," the Fourth Prince sternly said.
"Yes, Your Highness. This subordinate will do so," the middle-aged scholar respectfully said.
A centipede could die, but it would never fall over. The Fourth Prince was currently restricted in his movements, but after working for so long, he still had some capabilities. Sending a few letters was still not a problem. The Fourth Prince gave a few more orders after that. This was the critical moment, and he had to forge for himself the highest chance of survival.
"The Sage Emperor has issued a decree. The Fourth Prince is invited…"
Five minutes later, the clattering of armored footsteps could be heard outside, marching toward Xueyang Palace. At this sound, the Fourth Prince and his aide both paled.
The Fourth Prince pushed the scholar away. At almost the same moment, the door to the palace flew open, and a fully-armored imperial soldier strode in.
"Fourth Prince, please!"
With the Fourth Prince arrested, the effects from the 'Xueyang Palace Incident' that took place during the Xiayuan Festival were quickly felt, erupting onto the political scene. All the people who had attended the Fourth Prince's banquet had already been arrested, their cases to be heard jointly by the Imperial Clan Court, the Court of Judicial Review, and the Bureau of Punishments, with several Imperial Princes presiding.
Not only that, even the Sage Emperor's trusted aide, Eunuch Gao, had been dispatched to investigate this case. From this, one could easily see the severity of the situation.
As those arrested officials began to confess, one thing became clear: in order to build up his own faction and contend against the many important officials that supported the First Prince and Second Prince, the Fourth Prince had made the unconventional move of courting the Hu Protector-Generals and Great Generals, these Hu officials who wielded vast and very real military power.
Based on Zhang Xian's confession, the Fourth Prince had obtained the loyalty of either one or a few of these Hu Protector-Generals, as well as that of their subordinates. There was even a signed oath of fealty that offered their full support in assisting the Fourth Prince in taking the throne.
Yang Chao's words could be disregarded as nonsense. After all, this was a revered prince of the imperial household. The casual tirades of a single man could not decide his fate. But the confessions of Zhang Xian, Zhao You, and the other officials of the Six Bureaus made this incident take on a completely different character.
It was no longer just Yang Chao saying that the Fourth Prince was colluding with the Hu Great Generals and planning rebellion. It was now beyond doubt.
When this news came out, the hitherto silent Sage Emperor exploded with rage, and the political circles of the empire experienced an unprecedented earthquake. In the space of a single day, the Sage Emperor sent twelve edicts together with his personal token to Beiting, Anxi, Qixi, and Longxi, requesting these four Great Generals to come to the capital and explain themselves.
The Sage Emperor's rage sent massive waves through the empire.
The entire court was fraught with tension, and the Xueyang Palace Incident that had taken place in the distant capital made powerful individuals like An Sishun, Gao Xianzhi, Fumeng Lingcha, and Geshu Han quiver in fear and unease.